Youth Poet Celebrates a “Sacred Woman”

We take a look at life in Detroit, as seen through the eyes of local youth poet Arzelia Williams.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Motherhood is particularly significant in the city of Detroit, where about 60 percent of households with children are headed by a single woman. As part of WDET’s new series looking at life in Detroit as seen through the eyes of local youth poets, we hear from high school junior Arzelia Williams. She tells us about being raised by three women; her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother. 

Sacred Woman

By: Arzelia Williams

Take away the woman

who helped her mother make sweetwater cornbread

on a hot stove in the deep south

And you take away the woman

who pulled stems from fresh picked greens

breaking them ever so gently. 

Take away the woman who nurtured every child’s wound

wiping away dirt specks and shattered glass

bandaging heartache with love

And you take away the woman

who’s hips swayed rhythmically

with every humming tune. 

Take away the woman

that has rocked cranky babies

to soothe crying

she kisses your forehead with enough force

that the smell of lilac

swings freely with every breath. 

Take away the woman

whose hands ached

with every stroke of a finger

as she swept away tears. 

If you take away this woman

you take away every neighborhood child

she has fed from bread crumbs

Filling their minds and their stomachs

before anyone of them knew about a woman

whose name is Momma to everyone.


Arzelia Williams is a poet with the Citywide Poets with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. She spoke with WDET’s Laura Weber-Davis.

— Laura Weber-Davis